|Prof. Attahiru Jega, chairman of INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said there is no basis for objecting to the affidavit presented by the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, over the circumstances surrounding his certificates.
It also said that it does not have the mandate to screen or reject candidates, stressing that its role is simply to display the nominees of parties for claims and objections and that only when there are objections will it revert to the parties to do the needful.
The APC presidential candidate, Buhari, did not submit his school certificates and other credentials to INEC, explaining in a sworn affidavit that the documents are with the military.
But the chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Kayode Idowu, who insisted that he would not comment on individual candidates, said: “When parties file the nominees, the law requires that INEC should display those nominees for claims and objections.
“If objections are made to those claims, the commission reverts to the parties because the statutory mandate is on the parties to nominate their candidates not for INEC to choose their candidates for them.
“INEC will have to revert to the political party and say there is a challenge on the credentials or the criteria that you have cited for any particular nominee and then we ask them to do the needful.
“That is either to address the issue or verify to see whether or not it is truth. It is there job so they have to sort it out before they present their candidate. So the commission has no role in disqualifying candidates.”
On whether candidates are required to submit credentials, he replied, “All the credentials are required to submit they have to submit.”
When asked what INEC would do if all the credentials are not submitted, Idowu said: “Don’t put words in my mouth. We don’t have this situation only in INEC. Moreover, it happens everywhere, people submit affidavits. It is not new.
“You submit affidavits, attestations in place of original certificates. Even for your NYSC certificate, you submit an affidavit where you don’t have the original.”
On whether the commission reverted to the APC on the absence of Buhari’s credentials, he said: “I am not aware of any issue that the commission should revert to.”
He further stated that the commission was not aware of a challenge over the issue, stressing, “Are you the one challenging? Let us not preempt issues that have not come up. I don’t think INEC can be anticipatory because it has not arisen.”
When asked about the certificates the APC presidential candidate submitted for his previous election in 2011, Idowu said: “I cannot speak on individual candidates. It is better for people to abuse me on this one than for INEC to be drawn into partisan squabbles.”
He however cited the guidelines for the submission of candidates under the Electoral Act, noting that there is a provision for sworn affidavits covering personal particulars in form CF01.
On whether INEC had the mandate to screen candidates, he said: “INEC does not screen candidates because INEC does not reject candidates. INEC sees what they have submitted, displays them for claims and objections if there are any and takes it up with the parties.”
Speaking on the redeployment of Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) ahead of the election, he said it has been a long standing policy of INEC, adding that the redeployment serves as a precautionary measure against creating grounds to fault election outcomes.
On complaints and protests on the redeployment of RECs, he said: “I think you are preempting things. We have read in the papers that people are protesting.
“Some media organisations even reached out to the affected RECs to respond. As far as I know, there is no petition with the commission about any REC.
“Decisions are taken after serious and careful considerations; these decision are not frivolous decisions. So they are not influenced, there has to be good grounds for such actions to be taken.
“As far as I know, I am not aware of any petition that has been sent to the commission regarding any REC.”
He also denied allegations that the commission posted RECs to their states of origin.
“In the deployment, the goal was not to post RECs to their states of origin but to post them to contiguous states so as not to create problems of acculturation.
“So they were posted to their states of origin but to states that are close to them so they don’t have to start a whole sale process of acculturation and that has been on since 2011,” he explained.
He faulted insinuations that the RECs were redeployed because of perceived questionable activities, saying, “Perception and reality are very distinctly different things.”
“As far as I know under this commission there has been no election conducted whose outcome is factor of the REC in power because RECs have stopped returning results since 2011.
“It is not because they have done anything wrong but because we have to insulate them from perceptions like this. It is just a precautionary measure. They don’t return results.
“So where you have RECs being moved it is not because the REC has done something or will do something it is just to forestall giving anybody an excuse to criticise and undermine election results, because typically, losers in our clime always look for every straw to clutch unto to overturn the results.
“So we don’t want to give them the ammunition to do so. It is a precautionary measure that the commission has taken not because it found any of the RECs culpable.”
He stated that “37 RECs cannot be compromised because it was a complete reorganisation. It was the whole lot that was moved around not isolated ones.”